City Explorations: Doha, Qatar

Elizabeth and I’s journey home from Budapest began with a quick 36-hour pit stop in Doha, Qatar. We landed in Doha on Friday evening and were scheduled to fly home in Qatar Airways’ new Qsuites bright and early Sunday morning. That left us with one full day to get out and explore Doha.

A few weeks prior to our trip, my co-worker Moe (who is originally from Dubai) had told me his cousin Sammy actually lives in Doha. He said he’d arrange for us to meet up with him while we were there and he’d be more than happy show us around. Sure enough, Moe coordinated everything and Sammy was all set to pick us up on Saturday morning to start our Doha adventure.

Our first stop that day was the Museum of Islamic Art. This architectural masterpiece was built in 2006 and has become a Doha staple. The Museum is actually located on the Doha Corniche right along the Doha bay. The Museum itself is home to over 1,400 years of worth of art from across three different continents. The collection includes metals, ceramics, wood work, jewelry, textiles and glass.

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After exploring all three levels of the museum we went outside and walked along the waterfront promenade. The Doha Corniche offers some of the best views of the Doha skyline across the bay.

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Our second, more impromptu stop of the day was at the Flacon Souq. On our way to Souq Waqif I caught a glimpse of the Falcon Souq and had to check it out. I’m not sure why I was so intrigued because I’m honestly a little freaked out by birds, but I had to see it. Falconry is such a huge sport in the Middle East and some of these falcons sell for tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars. It was quite the experience seeing these animals up close.

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After our brief visit to the Falcon Souq we walked across the street to Souq Waqif. Souq Waqif is a traditional Qatari market that sells garments, spices, crafts and souvenirs. The Souq was recently renovated in 2006 to preserve it’s traditional Qatari architecture, but it’s actually over 100 years old. Souq Waqif is the one of the only areas remaining in Doha to retain it’s authentic commerce and culture.

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As the temperature began to rise into the high 90s that afternoon, we decided to take a quick drive through downtown Doha and head to lunch. Sammy took us to one of his favorite restaurants at the Hilton located right on the beach. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I couldn’t find the name of this restaurant anywhere on the internet. Sammy ordered all of the food and we had a small Middle Eastern feast. After the meal was over we relaxed, smoked some shisha and watched a storm roll in over the Doha Bay.

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Sammy dropped us back off at the Grand Hyatt Doha later that evening and we enjoyed the rest of the night drinking wine and relaxing before getting to bed nice and early.

All-In-All

Elizabeth and I loved our brief stay in Doha. I know Doha has gotten some negative press in the last couple of years for potentially harboring terrorists, but I can say I was truly impressed with the city. Doha was extremely clean, well organized and not once did I ever feel unsafe. I also want to extend a special thank you to Sammy for showing us unbelievable hospitality. You were truly a great host and I can’t wait to come visit again soon!

Have you ever visited Doha? What’re your favorite things to do there?